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Updated: Feb 7, 2019

If you were given one million dollars, what would you do with it?

This is a thought provoking question isn’t it? Immediately your mind begins to wander and fantasize in different directions; just think of all the possibilities, all the opportunities. If you ask this question to different people, then you’ll likewise receive different answers based on their character and situations. Some of the answers will seem practical: buy a home, pay off debt, travel, invest, etc. But if you ask it to enough people, eventually someone could say something remarkable, perhaps something so selfless, so radical, so heartfelt, that it leaves you speechless. 

That’s exactly what happened when we asked this question to a very special young man. His name is Rodney, and he’s an 18 year old boy from Orange Mound. Rodney lives in a world that many of us do not understand. This is a world of poverty. But not just a poverty of finances; it’s a poverty of opportunities, a poverty of education, of mentors, and of encouragement. Like many boys in his neighborhood, Rodney comes from a fatherless home. Both his mother and grandmother work full-time to fill this gap and to support him and his sisters. 

Rodney lives in a part of Memphis where jobs for young men are hard to come by and male role models are even harder. Many boys his age turn to the streets to survive; selling drugs or joining gangs in order to deal with the hardship of an impoverished community. But thankfully, Rodney discovered an after school haven to escape to, a place where he could spend his time with a group a good Christian men enjoying what he loves - basketball. This oasis in the harsh streets of Memphis is called MAM (Memphis Athletic Ministries). It’s a place where young men can come and be ministered to through the love of sports and athleticism by strong Christian men. This is a place that provides the fundamental piece that is missing is so many of these young men’s lives: Christian male role models. MAM is not only changing lives, it is impacting generations. And that is why we were drawn to MAM and where My Town Miracles discovered Rodney. 

When we first approached MAM about becoming the miracle for one young person in their program, we had decided from the beginning that we wanted to do something more than just supply him/her with money; we did not want to enable him/her but empower him/her, instead. We wanted to create a miracle that would provide lasting change.

Of the hundreds of boys and girls, 12 were chosen to be applicants. These 12 represented some of the finest of MAM. Of those 12 , 3 made it to the final interviews. And it was in these interviews that Rodney made his mark on our hearts. How did he do that? Well, that leads us back to the question:

If you were given one million dollars, what would you do with it?

This is what we asked all three candidates in our interviews and to our surprise, this is what Rodney told us:

"If I were given one million dollars, I would put lights in at the basketball court in my neighborhood."

This caught us off guard because on the surface the idea seemed a little “small”. But as we dug deeper we uncovered the true character of an incredible young man.  

The reason Rodney would use the money to put in lights at his community basketball courts is because this is where his friends go after school to play; this is where you go instead of hitting the streets, selling drugs, being out and getting in trouble. This is why MAM is so effective at drawing young men in; for the love of the game. But on the courts in Rodney’s neighborhood there aren’t any lights, and unless people are willing to run their cars and turn on the head lights, everyone has to stop playing when the sun goes down and walk home in the dark. In Rodney’s world, this is when the trouble starts; this is the time that young men are most vulnerable and can get hurt. Not just walking home, but because of what many go off to do when the game is over. 

Rodney wanted to change that. As simple an idea as it is, Rodney wanted to bring light into the darkness of his community. He wanted to use one million dollars to make an impact for his world. 

That was all we needed to hear. From that moment on we decided to walk alongside Rodney as best we knew how and provide him with a miracle that would create lasting change. This began with mentorship. Coming from a fatherless home and a community lacking in mentors, even the basics of things are often foreign to young men in Rodney’s neighborhood. Things like getting a driver’s license, opening a bank account, or applying for jobs. While we can look at these things as a “given”, as something everyone should know, to Rodney they were areas where he needed mentoring. And so we walked with him. We brought him into our world. We exposed him to new mentors such as business owners and we walked him through the processes of a life off the streets: applying for jobs, getting his drivers license and even taking him to his job interviews. We looked ahead for him and looked for ways to teach him to equip himself for his life challenges soon to come after high school. 

Eventually, we decided that if we were going to make a lasting change in this young man’s life, we were going to have to think about what was most important to his growth.  So we asked him.  Rodney had expressed that he wanted to work, go to the military, and that he also wanted to pursue a higher education. With this in mind we came up with an idea. Rather than just have Rodney working a job that would help him make money towards his education, we decided to create a job for him that would surround him with the thing missing most in his life: mentors. 

And so, we partnered with MAM to fund a salary for Rodney. This created an assistant position for him and will continue to pay him until even after he starts college or joins the military- another lifelong dream. 

Rodney Walker is one of many young men that are in need of multiple mentors. " It takes a village to raise a child"  Rodney now has the pathway to become a mentor himself and give back to his community.

While money and opportunities can provide for the necessities of life, they cannot teach young men about character, about discipline, about honesty and integrity. By the power God’s holy spirit through Jesus Christ, these are the qualities that we at My Town Miracles hoped to foster in this young man, and in so doing, we hope that this can create a lasting change for his life and the lives he touches.


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